Tag Archives | three dimensional characters

Secrets to a likeable character.

When I see the rule scattered across the blogosphere not to create an unlikeable character,

I pause.

Is this one of those rules that can be misleading to a newer writer? (Because there were plenty that threw me when I was starting off.) An unlikeable character to me is someone I don’t care about. Not someone who is mean.

A likeable character:

  • Does not always mean sweet, innocent, or moral. (Boring!)
  • Does not mean everyone in the story must like them. (No conflict!)
  • Does not mean they have to make morally right decisions.
  • Does not mean they are polite and respectful to their parents.
  • In fact, they could even be kind of obnoxious and mean to their peers. (Ramona, anyone?)
  • And seriously, it doesn’t mean they have to be the outcast. (Though I suppose that’s the easy way to manipulate your reader into liking them.)
  • It doesn’t mean they have to be the one being bullied and mistreated.

In fact, when done well, some of my favorite characters started off kind of like the bad guy. (I heart villains!)

Secrets to creating a likeable character:

  • Create a thought life that connects the reader to the character. Major subtext needed.
  • Make the reader care about the character even if he’s still rough around the edges.
  • Show a home life or life outside of his/her peers that explains why a character is acting unlikeable. (Get straight to the heart.)
  • When no one is looking, show the soft side. Have him a save a cat or something like that.
  • Show all the areas where this character could grow.
  • Show the why behind the character’s unlikeable actions.
  • Give him a goal that will force this unlikeable character to change.
  • The most unlikeable character to me is the boring character. But show some juicy internal conflict and I’m all yours!

Any other tips? Any unlikeable likeable characters come to mind?

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Finding the perfect wrong character for your story.

Plot usually comes first for me. And then the character that seems to fit best. Guess what?

At first, that character wears cliché like a toddler does food.

So this time around, I went out of my way to create a character that on paper would be the worst possible choice. What character would fail miserably for this story goal? And why? What character would absolutely not want to complete this story goal? And why? And then add personal stakes so they have to complete the story goal.

All in hopes that this will build in automatic inner and outer conflict. And add a bit of humor.

But another choice would be to create that perfect character for the role but burden him/her with a major flaw. A fear. A troublesome past. A physical handicap. An emotional handicap.

The danger in creating any character is going too far in either direction and ending up with a cartoon (which I’ve done). And as usual, the biggest challenge is the actual writing and making that character come alive on the page.

How do you create your characters? Do you tweak them to create more conflict? Or do your characters come first and then you build the plot around them?

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A confession about character charts

I don’t like character charts.

There I said it.

You’d think as someone who loves plotting and outlining that I’d be a diehard character chart person. Or I’d want to find magazine pictures of my character and make a collage. And I’d want to make a play list of their favorite music.

But I don’t do any of those things.

My first manuscript, my first conference, my first sit down with an agent – and she requested a partial. I almost died and went to manuscript heaven. I sent it off, full of hope, but received the rejection later. Something about the characters not being three dimensional. (And my writing so wasn’t ready.)

So I went on a quest. To find the secret of the 3D character.

With charts, I do like questions about the emotional mindset of the character. The questions that dig deep about why a person is the way they are. Why do they respond the way they do.

I write a fact about my character. Then I ask why. Then I ask why again and again. Until I’ve narrowed down the core emotional truths about my character.

And I love developing their backstory and what haunts them.

But all of that still won’t make a three dimensional character. 3D characters seem to be a combination of all aspects of great writing from dialogue to description to backstory to using sensory details…the list goes on.

And yes, the Snowflake Method comes with character charts. So, I did them. For all my characters. I don’t know if they’ll make a difference. I’m still a bit wary. I’ll let you know.

Do you use character charts?

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Snowflake Part III Character motivations

Some of you might be thinking, ‘Wow that Snowflake Method sure focuses on plot. What about the characters?’

Before using the Snowflake, I never got past the short synopsis. I wanted to jump into the writing.

And this time, I finally (yes, I’m slow to catch on) worked on the characters.

Here’s what I did:

  • Per the Snowflake, for each main and important secondary character, I wrote down their story goal, conflict, epiphany, sentence summary and paragraph summary.
  • And then, I wrote a characters synopsis for each of them – taking a few paragraphs to tell the story as if they were the main character. (Wow! Enlightening.)

I’ve barely started writing, but I feel as if I understand my villain, and I’m friends with my characters. But, knowing all this and creating 3D characters on the page are two different things. I have a lot of hard work ahead.

And I need all the help I can get. How do you make sure your characters are fully developed? And, what are some techniques to bringing them to life on the page? (Other than blood, sweat and tears.)

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Compelling Characters Part II

While reading so many awesome character posts, I jotted down highlights and recurring themes.

And then someone (not mentioning any names but he lives in this house) recycled the paper.

But here’s what I remember:

  • Character charts
  • Flaws
  • Larger than life
  • Characters should be actively making decisions.
  • Believability
  • Voice

Um, yeah, and I’d have a whole lot longer list if it hadn’t been recycled.

So the big blogging experiment showed me that most writers know what it takes to make a real, authentic character.

Then how come we’re not all published?

Creating that unforgettable character takes more than knowledge. We can read all the craft books and blog posts in the world but it means nothing if we don’t learn how to apply that knowledge to our writing. 

And frankly, the ‘how’ in bringing our characters to life on the page would take more than a 250 word blog post. Because we need all the facets of writing from story idea to plotting to backstory to description to world building to dialogue to pacing to internal thoughts to voice and more.

And that’s where the read, read, read, and write, write, write comes in.

So who’s going to be taking a second look at their characters this week? And what will stay with you after the dust settles from the great blogging experiment?

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